Looks like Thanksgiving is canceled in Washington State and it seems like more lockdown mandates are just on the horizon for all of us “Washingtonians”. However, it makes sense as to why the powers-that-be would aim to cancel Thanksgiving and if you haven’t been asleep for the past 9 months, you know that arbitrary and whimsical mandates have nothing to do with slowing the spread of the virus or keeping people safe, rather it is to control and oppress the governed.
Thanksgiving is a distinctly Christian holiday. Of course, it is not celebrated in other parts of the world nor has it been “officially” canonized by the Church or Tradition but it is “Christian” in the respect that it could only from a Christian worldview. Remember, Thanksgiving was not about turkey, stuffing, or gorging ourselves before watching a football game but it was that moment when those Separatist--Calvinistic Christians--who endured harsh environments of a new world, death, and disease, joined with the Wampanoag tribe to fellowship together and rejoice in God’s provision. From that point onward, a series of events would later establish a nation, promote democracy and freedom globally, and make America a beacon for the gospel.
Faith. Freedom. Unity. Things that are despised by despots and tyrants alike. Yet it is those very same things that made the first Thanksgiving, and subsequent ones after, so meaningful. When families and friends gather together to praise God, it says in the Scriptures, that He dwells in the praises of his people (Psalm 22:3). As Christians, we experience that when we go to church, but also when we gather around the Thanksgiving table. In our home, the day is full of rejoicing and praising God for all that He has done this last year and we spend hours recounting all the times that God was faithful.
We also rejoice that we are a free people--free in Christ but also free citizens of America. Again, why did the Pilgrims flee Europe? To escape religious persecution and to practice Christianity with a clear conscience informed by the Bible. As stated earlier, what the English Separatists were endeavoring to do was to establish a community by which those members could worship Christ freely. Today, we are benefactors of that and when we gather together, we are carrying on that long-fought-for blessing of freedom.
Lastly, no one likes to spend Thanksgiving alone. Although, Thanksgiving can be full of awkward interactions with relatives, still, deep down, there is a comfort in knowing that you are together with family. Moreover, it is not just your family that is gathering on the last Thursday in November, but others as well thus making us all united in giving thanks. Thanksgiving is another example of what makes the United States of America, united.
Yet, we have leaders who oppose this. Why? Because a free people who are united and have faith in the living God are dangerous. Their mere existence challenges everything that an authoritarian holds dear: Power and control. So, this Thanksgiving is not so much about food as it is about principle. That if you choose to gather with your friends and loved ones, you are making a statement to those who are in power, that you will not comply with their tyrannical edicts but will honor the legacy of our forbearers--the Pilgrims--and follow their example in giving thanks to the Providential God of the Bible.
It is strange, I know, to think of Thanksgiving as an act of defiance but that is what it must come to in 2020. The Lord is worthy of us giving Him our thanks and our praise. This year has been difficult yet through the grace of God in Christ, our cup has indeed runneth over in so many ways (Psalm 23:5). I would encourage you, pastorally, to remember God as you gather, and yes, when I say “gather” I literally mean, in person. As you do, give God thanks, even if it becomes illegal, for the many blessings you enjoy and for the strength that He will provide in the days ahead.